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People v. Cross

December 02, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Burke delivered the opinion of the court:

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Joseph J. Urso, Judge Presiding.

Defendant John Cross appeals from an order of the circuit court denying him two of four supervised off-grounds passes from the Elgin Mental Health Center. *fn* On appeal, defendant contends that the trial court's judgment was against the manifest weight of the evidence and that it erred in placing the burden of proof upon him as to whether the passes should be granted. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

In 1981, defendant, believing he was acting on orders from God, murdered two women and attempted to murder another woman and her husband after invading their home in order to kill "witches and warlords [warlocks]." Defendant was found unfit to stand trial in 1981. In 1982, defendant was found not guilty by reason of insanity, remanded to the custody of the Illinois Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (DMHDD), and subsequently resided at the Elgin Mental Health Center (Elgin). Over the course of 15 years, defendant received treatment for his illnesses, which included schizophrenia, paranoid type, alcohol abuse, and other narcotics abuse. On October 26, 1995, Elgin's director recommended defendant receive unsupervised on-grounds passes and supervised off-grounds passes. On January 25, 1996, the trial court held a hearing and, based on its determination that the State bore the burden of proof, granted the unsupervised on-grounds passes, but denied the supervised off-grounds passes. Defendant appealed the denial of the supervised off-grounds passes, and we remanded the cause, holding that the trial court erred in placing the burden of proof on the State. Cross I, 289 Ill. App. 3d 876. More specifically, we found that defendant, not the State, had the burden of proof in the hearing to modify his treatment plan pursuant to section 5--2--4(b) of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5--2--4(b) (West 1996)). Subsequently, the need for further hearings on the October 26, 1995, pass recommendation was rendered unnecessary by the filing of a new recommendation with the trial court by Elgin's director on April 9, 1997, again requesting supervised off-grounds passes in behalf of defendant for the purpose of continuing his treatment. Specifically, the Director, based on defendant's treatment team's recommendation, sought four passes for defendant to: (1) "attend outpatient group psychotherapy at the Isaac Ray Center"; (2) "attend an outpatient chemical dependency group in the community"; (3) "visit with his children" at his mother's house; and (4) "attend other supervised off-ground activities which the Treatment Team deems beneficial," including visits to half-way houses and a community reintegration program.

At a hearing on August 18, 1997, on the director's recommendation, defendant presented two witnesses. Albert Stipes, M.D., a forensic psychiatrist employed by the Forensic Clinical Services of the Cook County Circuit Court, testified that he examined defendant on May 19, 1997, pursuant to court order. Stipes diagnosed defendant's illness as "[s]chizophrenia, paranoid type, in partial remission with medication and polysubstance abuse." Stipes based his diagnosis on his personal examinations of defendant in 1997 and 1993, as well as records from Forensic Clinical Services and Elgin. Stipes stated that defendant was currently receiving medication for his illness through an injection every 28 days. It was Stipes' opinion that defendant was not a risk to harm himself or others, able to "provide for his basic physical need as to guard himself from serious harm," not subject to involuntary admission, and ready for the type of passes requested. Stipes further stated that the passes would not interfere with defendant's medication or treatment, would enhance his treatment, would not lead to a resumption of drug use, would not lead to an escape, and would provide reasonable assurances of public safety. In Stipes' opinion, the passes "[were] necessary to assure his [defendant's] progress. It's part of the treatment." Stipes characterized defendant's behavior as "cooperative with the staff and *** no incidents of violent behavior or any threat to others or harm to others or to himself during his stay."

On cross-examination, Dr. Stipes stated that defendant's treatment records began in 1993, but that defendant's mental illness existed for a long period of time before that. Stipes limited his testimony on direct examination to incidents of violence during the period from 1993 onward only. However, Stipes stated he was aware that in November 1993 defendant became hostile to staff when they suggested that he increase group and socialization activity, and as a result, defendant was placed in another unit for observation after this incident. In addition, in April 1994, defendant became sexually involved with another patient which resulted in the birth of twin girls. This activity resulted in defendant's privileges of living in the William White Unit (a less restrictive unit within Elgin) being revoked. Stipes further stated that defendant still resided in a more secure unit at Elgin, and had not regained his privilege of living in the William White Unit. Stipes admitted that since defendant began receiving the injections of the medication Haldol, there was an incident, in February 1996, when he refused to take another medication, Cogentin, designed to counteract the adverse side effects of the Haldol. Stipes also testified that in December 1994, defendant was provoked by another patient and responded by slapping the patient, but Stipes did not consider this an incident of violence since defendant was provoked; in February 1996, defendant asked the staff for a month off from any events or programs because he did not want to participate; defendant had always been considered a "loner" and the staff and doctors attempted to get defendant to integrate himself and become more social; in May 1997, defendant reiterated his desire not to integrate himself into the community; and defendant had indicated that he did not feel he needed anymore therapy, either psychiatric or polysubstance.

Raymond Sipowicz, a psychologist at Elgin, who had been defendant's individual counselor for approximately two years at the time of the hearing, also testified in behalf of defendant. Dr. Sipowicz stated that he had had contact with defendant for approximately a total of 3-1/2 years. He met with defendant once a week for individual counseling, which increased to twice a week upon defendant's request. Over the last few years, defendant had become "much more expressive," and "much more concerned about what's going on within himself and within his behavior." Sipowicz concluded that defendant's request for more counseling sessions was "a positive indication of some personal growth." Sipowicz made his determination about recommending the supervised off-grounds passes after reviewing all of defendant's records, as well as his own personal examinations of defendant. Sipowicz's opinion was that defendant's illness went into remission around 1990 based upon the behavioral changes he noticed in defendant. Defendant became less aggressive and irritable, stopped having hallucinations and became better at handling stress. According to Sipowicz, the recommended passes would not interfere with defendant's continued medication, cause him to resume using illegal drugs, cause him to harm himself or others, or pose a threat to public safety and, would in fact, further his treatment. Sipowicz further stated that at the time of the hearing, defendant had unsupervised on-grounds passes, which allowed defendant to move around different parts of Elgin to attend different activities without being directly supervised by a staff member. Throughout the period that defendant had these on-grounds passes, he followed the rules, never tried to escape or to injure himself or others, and the passes allowed defendant to interact and socialize with other patients, furthering his integration treatment.

Dr. Sipowicz further testifed that the facility director's recommendation for the passes arose out of an evaluation of defendant by the Isaac Ray Center that recommended working to integrate defendant slowly back into the population. According to Sipowicz, some of the steps Isaac Ray and his treatment team sought to employ with defendant were visits to half-way houses, evaluation of his home and neighborhood, and community reintegration which involved visits to local malls, libraries, and learning to use public transportation. Sipowicz further stated that "one of the thrusts of the Isaac Ray report *** [was] that that man [defendant] has only known a very structured secure setting for a long time and needs to be able to just get out and see what the outside world is like."

The State cross-examined Dr. Sipowicz regarding defendant's need for treatment and whether defendant's progress was significant. Sipowicz acknowledged that defendant required "supportive counseling," as well as medication to keep his illness in remission. With respect to defendant's monthly injections of medication, Sipowicz stated they were begun after several problems with defendant failing to take his medication prior to 1990. Sipowicz also acknowledged that for five days in February 1996, defendant refused to take his Cogentin, and in May 1996, a notation in one of Sipowicz's reports showed that defendant lacked motivation regarding his substance abuse group; defendant was of the opinion that he no longer needed substance abuse counseling, even though the staffs at both Elgin and Isaac Ray both believed he did. Sipowicz further stated that in February 1996, defendant "experienced very complex emotional reactions [and] *** was frustrated and discouraged by the [trial] Court's rulings."

Sipowicz further testified that he was aware that in April 1994 defendant allegedly became aggressive with a staff member who had asked defendant to turn down his radio. Sipowicz also stated that in May 1994, defendant indicated that he could determine which people were righteous and which were not righteous by looking for a white aura around the person. Sipowicz stated that he did not consider this necessarily a delusion, and explained that it is difficult to differentiate between some delusions and religious beliefs. Sipowicz went on to compare defendant's beliefs with those of people who believe in angels. Further, Sipowicz acknowledged that in December 1994 defendant was involved in a physical altercation with another patient who had provoked him. It was Sipowicz's opinion, however, that defendant's reaction was a result of provocation by a disruptive patient and that defendant attempted to avoid a conflict. After the incident, defendant apologized for his actions.

The State continued to cross-examine Sipowicz about incidents involving defendant after 1993. Sipowicz stated that in December 1995 defendant was seen by a female staff member stroking his penis over his clothing. The staff member interpreted it as inappropriate behavior directed toward her, but Sipowicz believed it was not directed toward the staff member, and that the staff member had simply walked past at an inopportune time. Sipowicz admitted that defendant became upset when he was questioned about the incident, would not take responsibility for his actions, and was placed on restriction for a period of days. Sipowicz also stated that when he was questioned by another staff member about the incident, defendant stated he committed the act because he "wanted some p****." Sipowicz's interpretation of this statement was that defendant was merely angry over being questioned about his actions. Sipowicz further stated that, in February 1996, the Elgin Fire Department responded to an alarm at the center causing defendant to become angry when his shoes became wet because of the actions of a staff member. According to Sipowicz, defendant stated something to the effect that he "was going to get rid of that housekeeper," or that he "was gone [sic] to go kill that b****." Sipowicz interpreted these outbursts as defendant merely evidencing his "intent *** to bring the matter to the attention of administration so they could remove [the housekeeper] from that position." Sipowicz's notes from March 1996 also reflected that there were "[i]ssues of insight in [defendant's] judgment raised due to two incidents on his [defendant's] unit involving anger, becoming intimidating when he was upset." However, according to Sipowicz, defendant had integrated himself into the Elgin community by working as a janitor throughout the center, eating, sleeping, talking, and otherwise socializing with other patients.

The State further questioned Sipowicz about an April 1997 report by a doctor named Rafferty, another member of defendant's treatment team, which indicated that defendant's participation in social treatment "remains minimal." Sipowicz admitted that in the latter part of 1997, it was defendant's opinion that there was little need for him to have continued extensive psychotherapeutic or other treatments. Sipowicz stated it was his opinion that he could not "see much benefit from *** [defendant] receiving any other kind of psychotherapy at Elgin," and that continued treatment required the supervised off-grounds passes. Sipowicz admitted that Dr. Rafferty's report noted that defendant's prognosis was "fair to guarded," but Sipowicz explained that the report pertained to defendant's status for a conditional release, and not for the issuance of supervised passes.

The State did not present any evidence, and after both parties rested, the trial court granted the request for defendant's supervised off-grounds passes to attend Isaac Ray and an outpatient chemical dependency group. The court, however, denied the supervised off-grounds pass for visits between defendant and his children and the general pass for anything the treatment team deemed necessary, stating: "[The court] will deny the request as to visits with defendant's mother and children, and I would certainly deny very strongly other unlimited visits that Elgin asks for at this time.

I believe this is a logical step. The next step has to be met. If he complies with this step, it is certainly possible the ...

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